Got Milk? Breastfeeding and Oversupply
Updated: Dec 26, 2021
Having an oversupply of milk is a blessing and a curse, all at the same time. While your milk supply is abundant, an oversupply can lead to clogged ducts or mastitis and leave you feeling downright uncomfortable. How do you know if you have an oversupply? Well, here are some signs in mama and baby:
1. Your breasts may still feel full after feedings or never really feel soft or "emptied".
2. You may get clogged ducts more easily due to milk not being fully drained.
3. You may be more likely to get mastitis due to milk stasis and clogged ducts.
1. Baby may pop off the breast when the milk lets down or clamp down on the nipple to help slow the flow. Ouch!
2. Baby may cough, choke, or splutter at the breast.
3. You may hear gulping when baby is feeding.
4. Baby may have poops that are green and frothy instead of yellow and seedy due to an increased intake of foremilk which is high in lactose.
5. Baby may act stressed at the breast and stiffen or arch their back instead of relaxed.
6. Baby may have short frequent feeds due to taking in more foremilk and less hind milk which is higher in fat.
7. Baby may spit up more often and/or seem more fussy or gassy due to increased air intake.
Possible Causes of an Oversupply and Treatments
Pumping. Some women’s breast are very sensitive to stimulation. The more you pump; the more milk your body will produce.
Treatment: Cut down on pumping, but do it slowly. We don’t want to risk clogged ducts or mastitis. Start by cutting the amount of time you are pumping by a couple minutes; do this for a couple of days and then start to space out pump sessions, slowly as well. It will take your body some time to catch up and realize what you’re asking, so be patient.
Too much Hakaa use. The Hakaa is a great tool to help catch letdown, but be careful! The Hakaa still creates suction which can stimulate your breasts to make more milk.
Treatment: Use the Hakaa sparingly or not at all if you’re prone to an oversupply. You can catch the milk in a bottle to avoid the extra stimulation.
You’re an overproducer. You may just be one of those mamas who produce an abundance of milk.
Treatment: Avoid extra stimulation. Try to not have the shower water hit your breasts directly and wear a bra often to avoid extra stimulation from a rubbing shirt. If your breasts are full and uncomfortable after feedings, instead of pumping, try doing some hand expression just to comfort. You can use a pump as well. Just pump until your breasts feel some relief and then stop. Your body will regulate to your baby’s needs overtime which can take up to 12 weeks.
Block Feeding: Block feeding is a way to reduce milk supply. It is taking a block of time, 3 or more hours, where you only offer one breast for that block of time. This is a great way to reduce milk supply but something we don’t want to do too early. Block feeding shouldn’t be started until milk supply is well established around 4-6 weeks.
Click HERE for Do's and Don'ts of Block Feeding
Overactive Letdown Reflex: Think of a fire hose, that huge rush of water coming down the hose and out. That is what an overactive letdown is like. Baby starts the feeding with suckling at the breast and BAM!!! milk comes flooding out. Some babies have no problem managing the flow but typically it takes time and growth before they are good at it.
Treatment: Try a laid back breastfeeding position. This helps put gravity on baby’s side so they can manage the flow a bit better. Unlatch baby when milk starts to letdown, catch it and re-latch when milk flow has slowed.
Clogged Ducts: Clogged ducts feel like hard, round pebbles under the skin and can be located on the breast all the way up into the armpit. These are caused by milk stasis and are painful and can potentially lead to mastitis.
Treatment: Light massage, I repeat, light massage! Like using the back of an electric toothbrush light. If you try to vigorously massage out the clog, it can actually result in more inflammation and damage. Moist, warm heat to the areas before massage helps to break up the clog. When massaging, find the borders of the clog and start massaging at the border that is closest to your nipple and work your way back toward your chest wall. Think about it like a crowded room with only one door to get through. You have to have people go through the door one by one or they won’t fit.
Herbs: Cabbage leaves, sage teas, peppermint oils, spearmint, lemon balm and oregano have all been used to help decrease milk supply.
Click HERE for a good resource on Herbs and Lactation Suppression.
Medications: If all else fails you can talk to your doctor about medications to help reduce milk supply. Please wait until supply is well established before going down this route. Sometimes medications work too well, and we end up with the opposite problem.
And as always, if you feel stuck or have questions, please reach out to me or your local lactation consultant. We are always happy to help you with your feeding journey! Motherhood isn't supposed to be navigated alone.
Kelsey, RN, BSN, IBCLC